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How to Tell a Cat’s Age

Picture of a cat in a sweater

Without a doubt, it can be a real challenge to try to tell a cat’s age if you haven’t had your feline companion ever since birth. It’s always helpful to know how you can find out your cat’s age even before you take your beloved friend to the vet.

In some cases, you might not have the money to get pet insurance just yet, so you should at least be prepared in terms of the possible medical conditions that a cat could develop depending on his/her age. There are many age-related diseases and more than enough ways of preventing them. Without further ado, let’s look at how you can tell a cat’s age.

Telling a kitten’s age

Kittens grow up extremely fast, and that means that it’s also difficult for you to tell whether they are one and a half or two and a half months old. In general, kittens that have their ears and eyes folded and closed, respectively, are between one and three days old. Once they are past the age of three days, their ears begin to unfold.

When they are around a week old, their eyes start to open, but just a little. Their ears would be completely open by this point, but the truth is that kittens are still too young to hear anything. Around the same time, they also begin crawling.

Between the ages of ten to fifteen days, the kitten’s eyes will be fully open, but her pupils will not yet be capable of dilating. When a young cat is two weeks old, she begins to walk, but her moves will be quite uncoordinated.

Once your pet reaches the age of three weeks, you’ll be happy to know that she will start responding to sounds. The ear canals of the kitten have finally opened, and along with this change, she will also begin to walk better. In case you didn’t know, the cerebellum and the ear are responsible for maintaining an animal’s balance and, in part, its proprioception.

Between four and five weeks old, the kitten will begin to play, pounce, and self-groom, and at around 6 weeks of age, her eyes will turn from blue to their permanent color. Finally, as the cat reaches eight weeks old, her weight should be around 2 pounds (that is, if this is a healthy kitten). Around this age, your vet could recommend that you get her spayed or neutered so as to prevent her or him from entering the first heat cycle. By the way, doing so will largely prevent some types of cancer, including ovarian, uterine, and mammary cancer, but also other problems such as pyometra.

Telling a cat’s age by her physical attributes

Let’s say that you weren’t lucky enough to be the guardian of the cat’s mother and kittens, too, and so you have to use other methods to tell what age the stray you’ve recently adopted really is. In the section below, we’ll talk about how you can do just that using your feline companion’s teeth, fur, and muscle tone.

The cat’s teeth

By the age of six months, the baby teeth are replaced with all of the adult teeth (they come in over the baby ones). Around the 2-year mark, the teeth begin to dull, and if the cat is between the age of 3 to 5 years, you’ll notice that her teeth can have tartar buildup on them. This is usually discernible between the actual teeth and the gum line.

If you have adopted a cat that is older than 5 years of age, you might notice some tooth wear, but you should also take into consideration that this is more likely to happen with cats that haven’t had a place to stay and their nutrition wasn’t always on par, so they had to improvise and eat whatever they could whenever they got something from a kind human.

The cat’s fur

All kittens have short and thick fur. As they become older, you’ll notice a change in its consistency and thickness in that it becomes both finer and softer. On the other hand, senior cats have thicker and coarser fur, and depending on their ‘design’, they will exhibit signs of aging such as the appearance of grey fur in some body areas.

The cat’s muscle tone

Even though the muscle tone can’t specifically tell you just what age your cat is, it’s generally acknowledged that younger cats have better muscle tone and are typically firmer all throughout their body as they are more active. Cats that are bonier on the rump or shoulder blades and that have slightly saggy skin are older.

Cats that only live outdoors are known to grow older faster compared to their indoor counterparts. That’s because indoor-only cats are safer and have to put in a lot less effort to make due and get some food and survive. They also don’t have to fight other cats or worse, dogs, predators, or even ill-intentioned humans. It’s said that at around the 14-year-old mark, an indoor-only cat is about 72-years-old while an outdoor-only cat is approximately 120-years-old (human years) — that is, if she’s lucky enough to live to be 14.

The cat’s eyes

Kittens have bright and clear eyes and will usually exhibit no trace of discharging or tearing. However, as they become older, they could develop tearing or discharge, and they might even develop a cloudy appearance of their eyes (which could be a sign of cataracts, an age-related eye condition).

The cat’s size

While most cats reach their full body size by the time they are 1-year-old, there are some exceptions to the rule, too. For example, Maine Coons are known to grow until they are 4 years old, which makes the task of telling their age a bit more challenging. Some cats typically look like ‘teenage felines’, and you can use this clue to draw the conclusion that they are younger than 1.

What about the cat’s behavior?

Most kittens want to play all day long, so up to the age of 6 months, you can expect this to happen. Between 6 and 12 months of age, your cat is going through the so-called ‘teens’ of cathood, so he or she will try to show dominance, grab at anything, even scratch and bite people and other cats, and generally just try to be everyone’s boss. If you let your cat be your boss right now, he might end up being just that for the rest of his life.

Between 1 and 2 years of age, your cat will enter adulthood and become more focused on kneading, hiding, and developing other such typical cat behaviors. Fortunately for you, the teenage angst has now ended.

From ages 3 to 6, your cat has a well-developed personality, so you shouldn’t expect any surprises from your pet. Between 7 and 10 years of age, your cat loses a little energy and becomes a lot more resistant to changes (much like an older human would).

Cats between the ages of 11 and 14 are considered seniors, so they usually experience a decline in health, including deteriorating hearing and vision. Geriatric cats are older than 15 years of age and they require plenty of attention as even the smallest changes in behavior will call for a trip to the vet.

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